NEW YORK — Pleased with the progress made during the New York Islanders’ first season in Brooklyn, Brett Yormark is looking forward to the team’s second year at Barclays Center.
“I thought we ended the year in a much better place than we started,” said Brett Yormark, the Chief Executive Office for Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which oversees business operations and marketing for the Barclays Center. “When you look back at those playoff games they were some of the most dramatic moments we’ve had here.”
Pointing to the improvements the arena made with game presentation, including the hiring of a hockey-centric group to take over game days, Yormark said the atmosphere during the Islanders’ run to the Eastern Conference semifinals — and their first postseason series victory since 1993 — showed “hockey has arrived in Brooklyn.”
However, Yormark wouldn’t comment on reports the Islanders were already considering leaving for a new arena either near Citi Field, home to baseball’s New York Mets, or Belmont Park.
“I can’t speak to that,” Yormark said Monday in a Q&A with media before the team’s preseason opener against the Philadelphia Flyers. “All I can speak to is that collectively our team here at Barclays Center will do everything we can to provide the fans and the players with a first-class experience. And that’s what I’m focused on.”
The Islanders moved to the Brooklyn arena — home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets since 2012 — last year after spending the franchise’s first 43 seasons at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. The deal with Barclays Center on a 25-year lease was announced in 2012 after a failed attempt to secure public financing for a new arena on Long Island and zoning approval was rejected for a privately funded development plan that would have included renovations to the Coliseum
Newsday reported earlier this month the lease has an opt-out clause with a January 2017 deadline for either side to terminate the deal. The Islanders could do it effective the end of the third season, and either side could do it for after the fourth season.
“I don’t have a crystal ball,” Yormark said. “I can’t tell you what the future holds. But I can tell you adamantly that we’re committed to providing a great season for everyone involved.”
To that end, Yormark said arena management conducted focus groups with fans in Brooklyn and on Long Island, asking what they liked and what they wanted to see improved.
One of the top complaints was about transportation on the Long Island Rail Road after games. Fans were displeased with the service during the season, but noted it had improved for the playoffs, and Yormark said the LIRR had agreed to maintain the additional schedule of trains after games this season.
Among other topics Yormark addressed:
— Fans can expect to see more Islanders branding and signage around the arena, “so they can feel this is their home.” He also said there will be more equal availability of Islanders and Nets merchandising at the arena’s retail stores.
— With fans’ desire for more weekend games, Yormark noted there were 18 games scheduled on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays this season, an increase from last year. “It’s something we need to look at and see where we can make more improvements for next year,” he said.
— The team’s ticket base had grown, with a marked increase in Manhattan residents who grew up in Long Island. He said the Long Island base had stabilized, while acknowledging some full-season ticket holders had chosen to trade down to partial plans.
“We’ve addressed everything fans had their hands raised about,” Yormark said. “I’m sure there will be more during the course of the season. We’ll remain flexible like we were last year. We’ll continue to learn and where we can get better, we will.”
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